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7 of our favorite Dayton holiday traditions


Blink, and it will be the holiday season.

In the spirit of the impending arrival of Santa, his elves, Christmas trees, holiday lights, rage-inducing lines at the stores and mistletoe, here are our favorite Dayton holiday traditions that simply can’t get here soon enough.

1. GRANDE ILLUMINATION AND HOLIDAY FESTIVAL

Nothing says holidays like the downtown Dayton tree lighting and children’s parade.

You’re overstuffed with turkey and exhausted from a marathon day of shopping, but you can still muster the energy to come downtown for the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree.

Watch the holidays light up during Dayton’s traditional tree lighting on Courthouse Square, followed immediately by a nighttime parade for children with more than 100,000 lights.

The holiday fun continues through December with Family Weekends and other activities, including The Tike’s Shoppe and Wintergarden Wonderland Windows at the Schuster Center, a family movie series, pizza with Santa, a holiday train display and much more.

>> PHOTOS: Dayton Grande Illumination 2016

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 24, 2017

WHERE: Courthouse Square, Dayton

MORE INFO:  Website

2. WONDERLAND WINDOWS

To many Daytonians, both old and young, it’s not Christmas without the animated characters whose antics once delighted shoppers at Rike’s department store.

The window displays date back to 1943 when NCR placed five scenes from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in their New York City office windows, according to Dayton historian Curt Dalton.

The figures, dressed in period attire, were incorporated into elaborate backgrounds built by NCR carpenters.

In 1945 Frederik Rike, owner of the Rike-Kumler company, successfully campaigned to move the display into the windows of his department store at Second and Main streets in downtown Dayton.

Visiting the windows became a holiday tradition for many Dayton families over the decades. The department store closed in 1991, but the tradition lives on every holiday season at the Schuster Performing Arts Center.

>> Step into a vintage wonderland at the Schuster

>> PHOTOS: Old Rikes’ window displays at Schuster

WHEN: Nov. 24-Dec. 31; Monday to Friday.: 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday: noon-4 p.m.; closed on non-performance Sundays and during private events

WHERE: Schuster Center Wintergarden, Second and Main streets, Dayton

MORE INFO:  Website | 937-228-7591

3. DAYTON BALLET’S NUTCRACKER

The Dayton Ballet presents the classic story of The Nutcracker every winter, with a cast that includes young dancers from throughout the Dayton area, with music by the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.

This year’s Nutcracker will run from Dec. 15-23 at the Schuster Performing Arts Center, with tickets ranging from $21-$72. The costumes are phenomenal, the choreography is beautiful, the little kids are adorable and the holiday spirit is strong at this event.

>> Christmas already? Time to buy these holiday hot tickets now

>> The best stage shows to celebrate the holidays

WHEN: Ten performances between Dec. 15-23, 2017:

  • Friday 12/15/17 at 7:30PM
  • Saturday 12/16/17 at 2:30PM
  • Saturday 12/16/17 at 7:30PM
  • Sunday 12/17/17 at 2:30PM (hint: don’t miss the Sugarplum Tea for children before this performance at 12:30 p.m.!)
  • Tuesday 12/19/17 at 7:30PM
  • Wednesday 12/20/17 at 4:30PM
  • Thursday 12/21/17 at 4:30PM
  • Friday 12/22/17 at 2:30PM
  • Friday 12/22/17 at 7:30PM
  • Saturday 12/23/17 at 2:30PM

WHERE: Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton

MORE INFO: Website | Facebook

4. CARRIAGE RIDES

Take a romantic or fun family carriage ride at The Greene in Beavercreek on Saturdays Nov. 18, Nov. 25, Dec. 2, Dec. 9, Dec. 16, Dec. 23.

WHEN: Rides will be offered from noon to 10 p.m. Nov. 18 and from 6-10 p.m. Nov. 25, Dec. 2, Dec. 9, Dec. 16 and Dec. 23.

WHERE: Pick up and drop off is located on the south side of the Town Square on Glengarry Drive. 

COST: $10 per person or $15 per couple, cash only. Children 15 and under ride for free with a paying adult.

5. OUTDOOR ICE SKATING

Nothing says winter fun like outdoor ice skating. The RiverScape MetroPark Ice Rink is the perfect setting for a date or fun with family and friends. All skill levels are welcome, and you can even take lessons if it’s that bad. Warm up with hot chocolate from the concession stand or at the outdoor fireplaces. No registration required.

WHEN: Open daily Nov. 24 through Feb. 28. Hours vary.

WHERE: Riverscape Metropark Ice Rink, 111 E. Monument Ave.

COST: $5 plus $2 for skate rental. Skaters ages 3 and younger are admitted free with a paying adult.

MORE INFO:  Website 

>> Lace up your skates for fun at Dayton’s largest outdoor rink

6. HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Nothing says date night or family fun night this holiday season than a trip to see some holiday lights. Here are a few must-see displays:

>> The best holiday lights displays 

Woodland Lights: The annual holiday display kicks off its 25th anniversary season Nov. 25 with a half-mile of lights and a month of fun including carriage rides, amusement rides, live animals, concessions and activities for kids. Woodland Lights offers a walk through eight acres of lights sparkling along a wooded path and a whimsical view of illuminated characters preparing for the holidays. Santa and his elf welcome children nightly through December 23 to their historic log cabin that’s decorated for the holidays. Costumed characters visit many nights and local arts organizations take the stage on weekends.

WHEN: Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Nov. 25 through Dec. 3 and nightly Dec. 8-30, except Dec. 23 and 24.

WHERE: Countryside Park at Washington Township Recreation Center, 895 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Washington Township.

COST: $8 admission, free ages 2 and younger.

MORE INFO: 937-433-0130 | Website

>> Reasons to visit Woodland Lights this holiday season

The Legendary Lights of Clifton: For more than two decades, people throughout the region have celebrated the Christmas season with a massive holiday display featuring more than 3.5 million lights illuminating the mill, the gorge, the riverbanks, trees and bridges. While you’re there, be sure to check out The Santa Claus Museum, a private collection with more than 3,000 examples of Santa Claus on display dating from as far back as 1850.

WHEN: Open Nov. 24 through Dec. 31. Open 5 to 9 p.m. daily. Closes early at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

WHERE: Clifton Mill, 75 Water St., Clifton.

COST: $10, free for children 6 and younger.

MORE INFO: 937-767-5501 | Website

>> Clifton Mill lights damaged in flooding

Carillon Tree of Light and A Carillon Christmas: Dayton’s newest holiday tradition returns. Carillon Historical Park’s 65-acre campus will transform into a winter wonderland. The annual lighting ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 29. kicks off a month of seasonal programming at Carillon Historical Park, Dayton.

>> 3 things to know about the Deeds Carillon

>> Reasons to love the Carillon Tree of Light

WHEN: Nov. 29-Dec. 30, 2017. Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Open 5-10 p.m.

WHERE: Carillon Historical Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton

COST: $8 per adult (ages 18-59), $7 per senior (ages 60+), $5 per child (ages 3-17). Free to children under 3 and Dayton History members. 

MORE INFO: Website

7. NORTH POLE EXPRESS

Surely, you know the classic book. Well, experience the real deal every holiday season at the Lebanon Mason & Monroe Railroad. Board the train and enjoy the classic story “The Night Before Christmas” complete with sleigh bells and Santa and his elves during this one-hour-plus train ride. The look on your child’s face will make it worth the drive to Lebanon. Train rides will be available on select dates and times Nov. 24 through Christmas Eve. Some key dates sell out quickly, including Christmas Eve and the date of the Lebanon Christmas Parade (Dec. 2. Advance ticket purchases recommended. Tickets can be purchased online.

WHEN: Nov. 24-Dec. 31, 2017. Departure times vary. Click here for the schedule.

WHERE: LM&M Railroad, 127 S. Mechanic St., Lebanon

COST: Prices vary based on date and seating selection, but ticket prices start at $18 for youth and seniors and $22 for adults.

MORE INFO: 513-933-8022 | Website



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